By Sunday Ani
Lagos State Government has taken a decisive step to end all forms of unlawful societies, cultism and cult-related activities with a new bill before the state House of Assembly.
A public hearing on the bill entitled: “A Bill for a law to provide for the prohibition of unlawful societies and cultism in Lagos State and for other connected purposes,” was held yesterday, September 24, at the Assembly Pavilion.
The law states that any person who by any means of intimidation, harassment, blackmail or threat of violence, compels another person to join an unlawful society, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 15 years.
The bill, which prohibits people from forming, organising or belonging to any unlawful society, states that once the activities of any society or group are is inimical to the peace of the society, such a group becomes a secret society.
The Bill further recommends that any person who violently compels another person to join an unlawful society commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a jail term of 21 years.
“Any person, who being a member of a cult or unlawful society sets fire to anything in an open or enclosed place, or uses a firearm or an offensive weapon or causes to be used a deadly object, acid or any potent chemical within a premises in any location within the state or causes a firearm or an offensive weapon to be used or set fire to anything in such a manner as to endanger the health or property of any other person, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a life imprisonment,” the Bill stated.
It also warns that students or members of an educational institution must not belong to any group or society that is not registered with the students’ affairs department such institution. It also stressed that any association or society of students on campus or any other educational institution which activities are inconsistent with the promotion of learning, social development and citizenship behaviour shall not be registered.
On principal offenders, the bill said any person who contravenes, aids or abets, protects, covers up or condones any other person who commits an offence under this law, or is an accessory before or after the fact of the contravention of any of the provisions of this law, commits an offence and will be regarded as a principal offender, who will be charged with committing the act or making the commission that the person that committed the offence made, and is liable on conviction to the same punishment that the person, who committed the offence is liable to.
In his welcome address, Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, Public Petitions and LASIEC, Victor Akande, said Lagos parliament had institutionalised public participation in law making through public hearing. He equally maintained that the essence of the public hearing was to give opportunity to the public to make inputs that will assist the lawmakers come up with better laws for the peace of all citizens in the state.
In his keynote address, the Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, represented by his deputy, Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni, said that the bills were important to the development of the state.
“We are here to today to discuss how to protect ourselves and our societies. We may have noticed the alarming rate of cultism and how our children are being indoctrinated. The issue has now extended to our primary and secondary schools.
“It is incumbent on us to act now to protect our societies. A law against drug abuse is also being considered by the House. The amendment to the criminal justice law will further increase criminal justice system by removing all the bottlenecks,” he said.
Reviewing the Bill, the Majority Leader of the House, Sanai Agunbiade, described the bill as very important, lamenting that the act of cultism had eaten deep into the society, and that it was important for the government to intervene.
Contributions made by the Deputy Registrar of the Lagos High Court, Mrs. Ariyike Ipaye Nwachukwu, Deputy Rector, Administration, Yaba College of Technology, representative of the Nigeria Bar Association, Lagos Branch, representative of the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Dr. Titilayo Ukaba, Mr. Emmanuel Oluwagbenga Bello from Alimosho, president of the Lagos State University Students’ Union Government among others. Others who couldn’t make any presentation were given till Wednesday, September 30, to forward their contribution for consideration.
In his response to contributions from the public, Eshinlokun-Sanni, promised that all observations would be duly considered with a view to incorporating those that are very effective.